Gossamer Tapestry

Reflections on conservation, butterflies, and ecology in the nation's heartland

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Desert Butterflies

Leon and i have been doing a fair bit of hiking here in southern California this week.  On Wednesday we ventured down to Anza Borrego State Park.  I was happy that Leon suggested Plum Canyon for our hike, because I've seen several species of butterflies that I'd like to photograph there.

The trail winds up a wash with lots of desert apricot bushes, which give the canyon its name.  There were lots of mint flowers in bloom.  I had been hoping to see Great Purple Hairstreaks and the winter color form of Leda Ministreak.  I saw lots of species of butterflies there- about 15.  The first one that paused long enough to be photographed were a bunch of American Snout butterflies.

After a bit, Leon called over to me that he had found a blue.  Turns out it was a Great Purple Hairstreak.  The good news is that it cooperates as a photographic subject.  The bad news is that it wasn't a good specimen.  It was the only individual we saw all day.

A few minutes later I managed to find a Leda Ministreak.  It was also the only one that I saw- but also a reasonable cooperative subject, and in this case a good specimen.

Plum Canyon is like a wild botanical garden with lots of cacti and other types of attractive plants.


We saw interesting insects other than butterflies, too.  This Tarantula Hawk (Pepsis sp.) preys on live tarantulas.  It stings them, drags the papalyzed spiders back to its burrow and lays eggs in them.  The developing wasp larvae feed on the internal organs of the tarantulas.  Befitting a species with such large prey, the was is huge and has a fearsome sting.  I gave this one a wide berth.  I don't think I have ever seen one in California before, though they are quite common in Arizona.

We finished the hike fairly early.  This was good, because I wanted to visit San Felipe Creek.  Becker's whites fly there, though I don't see them every year.  I have previously gotten one bad photo, and wanted to do better.  I was fortunate.  There were more Becker's Whites flying at the creek than I have ever seen at the same time before.  It was a very satisfying end to the day.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Queens Among the Palms

The summer has rushed by.  I just noticed that it's still May at Gossamer Tapestry, and figure that I should change that.  A whole lot has happened over the summer, but right now I'm enjoying the weather in sunny southern California.  Yesterday Leon and I took a hike at Palm Canyon.IT was a lovely day with brillian sunshine and mild temperatures. 

The hummingbird feeder at the trail head was very active.  I felt lucky to get a couple of in-focus shots.  Even at feeders, I find hummingbirds very difficult to photograph. 

The dense palm groves give the area a distinctly tropical feel.  At the same time, you can tell that we are near the solstice at a relatively high latitude.  Even early in the afternoon, the shadows are quite long.

I always enjoy seeing plants that I associate with cooler, wetter climates in the desert oases, like these maidenhair ferns. 

I had told Leon that I was hoping to be able to do at least a bit of insect photography on the hike.There isn't much diversity at this time of the year, but I wasn't disappointed.  I always see Queen butterflies here, but have somehow never managed to get a decent digital image.  I was pleased to see some good specimens today. 

There were also many variegated meadowhawks flying about..There will be much more hiking later in the trip.